Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Girl Who Cried Promotion

The bad news for the Boy Who Cried Wolf was that eventually there really was a wolf.
Happily, for me, the good news is that eventually there really was a a promotion.

That's right, folks, the long-awaited title change showed up in the UMS payroll system yesterday! I did a lot of silent rejoicing while hiding behind my desk because no announcement had as yet been made to my co-workers, Alan sent me a dozen white roses (which observers could attribute to the certification news from Monday), and I arrived home to wonderful homemade cards from the kids featuring pictures of me eating cake and saying "Yaaaaaaaaay!" [alas, no actual cake].

And then today, a formal e-mail announcement was issued and more flowers arrived (from Mum & Dad and Helen, my "Soule supporters") and now not only is it real, but it's also public which is AWESOME!

Thanks to everyone who patiently listened to my tales and frustrations and hopeful assurances that "it's close...really this time...I think....maybe".

Sign me,
~Finance and Adminstration Coordinator

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Three Little Letters

Yesterday I experienced a true and wonderful surprise. I received the results of the certification exams I took at the beginning of May.

The letter said a lot of things, but the first words I noticed were the ones in all caps:

Part 1: Office Systems Technology PASSED 885
Part 2: Office Administration PASSED 901
Part 3: Management PASSED 1000
Part 4: Advanced Organizational Management PASSED 936

There were, in fact, several pages worth of interesting information enclosed, but the most important parts are as follows.

I passed all four parts, in spite of my utter certainty that I had failed at least 2-3.
(I wasn't being humble, folks, I really thought I had tanked. They were hard tests.)

I needed a score of 450 to pass each part. As you can see I did better than necessary.

This certification may earn me 29 college credits.

And best of all, I hadn't even noticed at first, but the letter was addressed to

Nancy Soule Marks CAP

How's that for a Monday?

Monday, June 22, 2009

And Now For A Post About MY Dad

My Dad--also known as "Gumpy" (which could be a whole other blog post)--can be described in numerous ways...

The Statistician

I needed speech therapy to learn to say "my name is Nanthy Thoule and my father teacheth Thtatithticth". What that meant to me (even before I mastered the Ss) was this: don't ask Dad for help with your math homework. Back then, the "big picture" conceptual math really didn't help you in third grade. These days, it's a whole different story.

The Grammarian

Not only did I never manage to take a statistics class, but my dad's stats career literally financed two English majors through private college. You'd think that would have been an insult, but we learned the importance of grammar from both of our parents and from a very early age. As a born storteller (don't even pretend to be shocked), I was frequently interrupted by one (or both) parents automatically correcting the phrase I had just erroneously breathed. For example:

"...there was blood everywhere and Shannon and me--"


The lasting effects of this are that 1. I do actually know and use the basic rules of grammar most of the time, 2. I hear these interruptions in my head whenever I am confronted by poor grammar, and 3. I try to wait until my kids are done with their stories (or at least at the end of a sentence) before I make the necessary corrections.

The Lefty

Read: man with lousy handwriting. Dad has this inimitable lefty-who-was-told-it-was-wrong-to-be-one, backwards-slanting SCRAWL. I once received a letter from my father while at summer camp. The handwriting on the envelope was even worse than usual and I couldn't decipher the return address but I knew it had to be from him. He had sliced open his left hand with a rotary saw (see below) and had to write right-handed. The letter itself was typed, thank goodness.

The Tough Guy

My dad just doesn't experience pain the way the rest of us do. One of many Dad-injuring-himself-badly-and-barely-noticing-it stories goes like this: He was using a rotary saw in his garage while home alone and shoved an item through a little harder than necessary, causing his hand to follow. He cut into the base of his index finger, right into the bone before the reflexes kicked in enough for him to yank his hand out and shut off the machine. Mum arrived home and found bloody rags all over the kitchen and garage. She figured that since the car was gone he must have driven himself somewhere so she called the local walk-in care facility where they informed her that Yes, your husband is being treated for a CHAINSAW injury. While Mum was freaking out and wondering which limb he accidentally amputated and how he managed to drive without it, Dad was in the background laughing too hard to breathe, much less correct the nurse.

The Punster

This brings us to Dad's sense of humor. To make his day, just share a really good (or really bad, depending on your point of view) pun. This is frequently followed by the famous gasping-for-breath laugh. The funnier Dad finds something, the longer it takes him to actually be capable of emitting sound. Our one-time neighbor, Will Hoover, once called Dad to tell him a joke he had just heard and couldn't wait to share. It was so punny that Will had to come over to make sure Dad was still breathing. And to hang up the phone. And then re-tell the joke for the rest of us. [And Yes, I still remember the joke].

The Absent-Minded Perfessah

My father is brilliant and creative. And sometimes can't remember his right from his left. Navigational assistance from my mother usually involves multiple references to "your OTHER left, Bill!". It has nothing to do with age; I believe he was born this way.

The Sailor

Whether there is a boat in the water at Hancock or not, Dad is a sailor at heart. His love of the sea and for "puttering around in the boat" and my mother's willingness to enjoy that with him, has been a major part of their long and happy marriage. The Soules have enjoyed a succession of seaworthy vessels that were as much a part of the family as the succession of cats--from the Goldenrod and Sunshine to the Capricorn and K.T.--although the two rarely encountered one another.

The Junkyard Engineer

In addition to being able to fix anything merely by taking it apart, examining it, and putting it back together, this avid recycler (read: one who is physically incapable of throwing anything away) can build amazing things out of stuff in his garage, from styrofoam-meat-tray airplanes that really fly to circus stilts to model train layouts to the Private William Lamson pictured below.

The Best Dad Ever

All of this--and so much more--makes my Dad the best dad, as Madeline would say, "in all the generations". Happy Belated Father's Day, Dad!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Daddy: A Father's Day Post by the Marks Children

James: Daddy is the greatest dad in the whole world because he's there for me when I'm hurt or upset about something. He always gets me the best things he can find and he's just a great dad.

Madeline: Daddy is the best dad in all of the generations because he cares for me. He prevents me from falling while we're on a walk, he helps me feel happy when I am sad, but most of all he is just great.

Jeremy: Hmmmm....well, he cares about me. The lawnmower is special about daddy. He hugs me. And he tickles me and I always try to run away from him when he tries to tickle me, but sometimes he traps me and tickles me. He keeps me company.

That's one special Daddy.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Boy, Undaunted


I can't find my toy. Do you know where it is?


I haven't seen it.

JEREMY (very slowly as if speaking to a small child)

Well.... do you think you could go into another room and LOOK for it ?

A bit taken aback, Uncle Rodney finds himself searching for the 5-year-old's missing toy.

What Men Want? actually lists this item in the category "Father's Day".

Because BLUE BALLS are on every dad's wish list.

[Normally Greater Good is one of my favorite shopping sites. I buy things there because I like them....and they support good causes. But seriously, even if they weren't blue...dryer balls?!? What were they thinking?]

And...we're back to dryers again!

Monday, June 1, 2009

As Much As I Love to Emulate Emilie, This Wasn't What I Had In Mind

If you've been following Emilie's blog you must know about THE DRYER CHRONICLES. If so, just go back and re-read them replacing the word "dryer" with the word "freezer" and you'll pretty much have the gist of what we've been going through. Except I am not as cool as Emilie and have not participated in any of the repairs. Granted, the freezer portion of our side-by-side fridge does not have soggy socks in it (last I checked, anyay), but there have been many times when if there were wet socks in there, they'd have been soggy rather than frozen. And ice cream the consistency of wet socks is just gross.
Here's the technical explanation: some thingy somewhere inside the water and ice dispensing whatchamacallit gets clogged and frozen and then there's no ice and the mystery meat goes limp and Alan has to defrost it all and the next thing I know my hair dryer is in the kitchen again.

See: it all comes back to dryers.

But, logic dictates that we can't possibly need to replace major appliances already because there isn't any trim board in our kitchen yet. You see: if the room isn't done yet, then everything in it is still new...right?!?

Meanwhile, Alan did emergency repairs on the disposal last week after it spewed potato salad throughout the under-sink cabinet, and I'm expecting the washer and dryer to quit any time now. And then there's that bulge in the wall in the dining room that's causing my beautiful wallpaper to split...

Oh yeah: we'll be celebrating the 10th anniversary of buying our house this July.

June Is Busting Out All Over

So we made it to June and more activity is on the horizon. This month, appropriately should focus a bit more on the man of the house.

Alan will start teaching two newly-developed online classes, with the aid of his brand new laptop (paid for by one of two grants he received this year). Of course, soon James and Madeline will be rattling around the house all day, so he'll probably be running away screaming as soon as I come home from work.

On June 7th, we'll celebrate Alan's niece's high school graduation. Some of you may remember her in the role of "adorable flower girl" at our wedding 15 years ago. Now she has a flower tatoo...but it's very tasteful! I used pix from her Facebook page (including the tattoo) to create invitations to her graduation party that look like a CD j-card. I've been told that her invites are the absolute coolest ever. Yes! I'm the cool aunt!

And then there's Father's Day which we're still working out--there's supposed to be some sort of combined Mother's Day-Father's Day get-away being planned....

Meanwhile, the Bell's Palsy that has had poor Alan looking like a pirate since December finally seems to be letting up a bit. He cautions friends to beware: apparently at 41 your face falls off. Fortunately, it appears not to stay that way forever.

More celebrations:

Happy Birthday, Uncle John!

Happy 1st Birthday, John Dmitri!

Happy 2nd Birthday, Samantha!

Happy Anniversary, Kathy & Dave!

The Lusty Month of May

New photos added 07-07-09

"Lusty", that is, in the fullness-of-life sense. May kind of got the best of me. Highlights are described below. Here's what my pocket calendar looked like (don't worry, I can't read it either):

May 1-2: CAP Examination in Portland, ME

Four-parts, gruelling, long, yucky, didn't do well, results not coming until mid-June at which point I'll start studying for the November retakes. I did, however, get to stop in Danville on my way home to see the Keene family. It was really nice to relax and visit with long-time friends John & Masha and daughter Yana, and to finally meet baby John Dmitri who is soon to turn one year old!

May 6: Fifth Grade History Fair

James did a very thorough report and presentation on "Operation Overlord" (aka D-Day) for which he (OK, we) created an elaborate diorama and Alan pitched in by giving our little GI a buzz cut!

May 9: The Pixy Ball

This Orono Public Library benefit is quickly becoming the social event of the year! Madeline and Nana Lois and I donned some very silly fairy attire and enjoyed a lovely afternoon in the court of the Fairy King and Queen.

May 10: Mother's Day

I almost forgot to mention this, probably since it didn't happen quite the way I'd hoped. [For the record, darling: mopping the kitchen floor is NOT what I had dreamed of doing.] We did have a very nice dinner at home, made by me (which meant I got to make exactly what I wanted AND take pictures of my food).

The best part, though, was the following tidbit I picked up a few days prior:

Premise: 3 married-with-children couples discuss weekend plans via e-mail. The "boys" want to go to the movies. We join the conversation as Kay points out that the date in question is Mother's Day.

Tom can come play, but mother's day? really? or is this a cover so you guys can go out and bring us back loads of ready-made meals, chocolate and alcohol? in which case, i'm onboard.

Oh right. I forgot about that.

RICH (Helen's husband):
I don't know about Tom or Tyler, but I'm taking the ladies to brunch.
Doesn't that cover things?!?! ;)

Months of heartburn and backache, hours of labor, 8-pounds-thirteen-ounces-without-drugs, sleepless weeks nursing 24/7 with cracked and bleeding nipples, body permanently reshaped in weird ways....
Oh yeah, I guess brunch covers that. :-)

May 15-17: the GNED Conference in Sturbridge, MA

(see earlier post for alphabet soup translations)

This was fun, interesting, educational, and a nice break from "normal" life (read: kids and the office). The location and weather were lovely and I even got in a couple hours at Old Sturbridge Village. I really enjoyed learning how to build our local chapter and getting to know people at the Division level. I was delighted to meet up with a fellow Mount Holyoke alum who conducted a great worshop on networking etiquette.

Take-aways from the weekend included:

--cookies with the IAAP logo printed on them

--raffle and silent auction loot worth much more than I spent on the tickets (stocking stuffers: check!)

--the thank you note wizard on (it's perfect for the kids!)

May 25: Memorial Day

Madeline and I accompanied Gumpy and his train in the Orono parade which conveniently passes right by our house. I was the replacement brakewoman since Mum's foot is still not 100%, and Madeline pulled the coal car the whole way! James marched with the Boy Scouts in spite of a recently sprained ankle, got to be front-and-center for the ceremonies on the bridge, and even carried a flag for the second half of the parade.

Afterwards, we had an extended day of festivities at our house. Phase One attendees included Great Aunt Betty, Mum & Dad, Nana Mary, Jenn and Ethan, and John and Yana who stayed long enough to overlap with Phase Two: the Fey Family. Kathy and Dave arrived with 2 year old Alex and 4-week-old Elizabeth who was adored and held by all. We ate and drank and played pretty much the whole long, delicious day!

May 29: Recital Dress Rehearsal

Five hours of pandemonium, picture-taking, costume changes, confusion, stampeding ballerinas, short-tempered parents, exhaustion and pizza. Oh yeah, and some rehearsing.

May 30: Mary Drew School of Dance 2009 Recital

Madeline was great! She was in 3 ballet numbers and one break-neck, crowded version of Cotton Eye Joe (think "little girls as cattle").

In addition to helping with various costumes and designing the programs, I was not just a ballet mom this year, but a dancer and choreographer myself.

I danced a "Hoedown" (aka the "beef-it's-what's-for-dinner" song) with a group of 21-and-unders while wearing a frightening red checked top and pouffy skirt. James put in an appearance as a handsome lead cowboy!

I also did two slightly more grown-up numbers with my three classmates who, it was pointed out to me, could ALL have been my children (thank you so much for that, Mum!). We did "Mercy" by Duffy with a few belly dance moves:

and "Amazing Grace" in a style reminiscent of a famous Alvin Ailey number (sorry: no decent picture of that one).

And the piece de resistance...Madeline and I performed "Doll on a Music Box" from Chitty, Chitty Bang-Bang. Shield your eyes now if you can't handle the 40 year old in a tutu [no laughing and NO PRINTING!!!]:

May 31: Ethan's Re-affirmation of Baptism

Yesterday, I was honored to officially become Ethan Galen Jeremiah's godmother. I'm so flattered and filled with love for Ethan and both his parents. Knowing all three of you has certainly enriched my life in so many ways. Thank you, Jenn and Travis!

And that about wraps up May!